BURLINGTON — After almost 37 years in business, Burlington’s Cottonpicker Restaurant is closing its doors as owner Bill Foster retires.
Foster, 69, of Burlington, inherited the business from his father, who first opened the Cottonpicker in March of 1976. The wooded plot at 2600 Browns Lake Drive later came to host an iconic duck pond and two miniature horses, as well as the supper club that served prime rib for both lunch and dinner every day.
The closing is sad, said Foster’s daughter Kathy Prailes, but “at this point, there’s just nobody to come in and run the business.”
Although she currently co-owns her own restaurant in Waterford, Prailes, 41, still remembers standing on a milk crate sorting Cottonpicker silverware at 10 years old, when she first started helping at her dad’s restaurant. She remembers her grandfather coming home on weekends and poring over the business’s books.
“Thirty-seven years is a long time, a lot of memories,” said Prailes, of Waterford. “It’s a lot of mixed emotions.”
Nevertheless, Prailes said the timing of her father’s retirement ended up aligning with the City of Burlington’s call to hook the restaurant into the city sewer system, an approximately $100,000 endeavor that “the business, financially, just can’t take on,” she said.
The Cottonpicker is set to close Oct. 14. Prailes said the building, along with its duck pond, will go on sale. Its contents will be auctioned later in October.
The Cottonpicker currently employs around 40 people. About a dozen of them work at the supper club full time, Prailes said.
Foster is planning one last hurrah for the restaurant Oct. 14, hosting a customer and employee appreciation party from 4 to 7 p.m.
Prailes said there will be a cash bar, snacks and — most importantly — a chance for people to gather together to share almost 40 years of memories.